Monday, April 6, 2009

Bust - August/September 2008 issue

Okay, so Bust isn't exactly a teen magazine. BUT! If I were in charge of a teen section in a library, I would get a subscription. Bust is the magazine "for women with something to get off their chest." Unlike many "alternative" magazines, Bust has a very high production value, with great design, glossy, colourful pages, and great writing. Plus - interesting articles! Shock shock! Throughout this issue were examples of young women who are living fantastic lives (and not just acting or modelling, although there are a couple of those). Annette Obrestad, for example, is the youngest ever World Series of Poker bracelet winner (now 19, she won when she was 18), who started taking on major players in online tournaments (and winning) when she was just 15. The magazine also profiles Hello Kitty and a custom sneaker designer from Brooklyn, and tells readers how to find plus-sized vintage clothing - all within the first 36 pages.

While Bust may be directed at a slightly older audience, I think it is a great magazine for teens. It shows that you can enjoy fashion and celebrities while also embracing all of the different facets that make us individuals. Yay for women who follow their passions. Yay for women.

p.s. The Bust website is also really great.

Ages 14+.

Cosmo Girl - October 2008 issue

Sigh. I admit that, once upon a time, I loved Cosmopolitan Magazine. The affair lasted maybe a year or two, before I realized that it was an abusive relationship. I enjoyed the pleasure Cosmo gave me, but as soon as our time was over, I felt empty inside.

Reading over this issue of Cosmo Girl, I got that same empty feeling, but this time without any of the pleasure. Sure, it's flashy and pretty. But it's also depressing and sensationalistic and annoying. Almost all of the articles came from a negative, warning perspective (the dangers of marijuana, how to deal with parents who behave badly, "I got scammed on Craigslist," and on and on and on).

Things I liked: There were a couple of nice fashion spreads.

Things I didn't like: Ugh. Pretty much everything else.

As a teen librarian, I would stock Cosmo Girl. But I would also make sure to stock alternatives. And a great programming idea would be to get a group of girls together to go through some of the magazines and examine what they are saying and how - with their use of imagery and choices of articles.

Ages 13+.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Magic Circle

By Donna Jo Napoli.

Published in 1993 by Dutton Children's Books, New York.

The Magic Circle is a hypnotic retelling of Hansel and Gretel from the witch's perspective. The ugly old woman is a talented mid-wife who finds her calling as a sorceress, saving people from demons that have taken over their bodies and made them ill. A moment of temptation leaves her at the mercy of the demons, who turn her from sorceress (one who uses the demons) to witch (who is used by the demons for evil). The old woman refuses to do their bidding, and she manages to stave off her unnatural urges for nine years, until Hansel and Gretel find her home in the woods.

The Magic Circle is beautifully written. It casts a spell as the story moves towards its inevitable conclusion, and even though I knew what would happen, I sat rapt as I discovered a brand new why. A great fairy tale.

All ages.

Out of the Dust

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Something interesting: the divide between young adult and adult is much fuzzier when it comes to things that aren't books. TV shows like Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl, Friday Night Lights: people of all ages watch and enjoy these shows. Movies cross generational boundaries to an even greater degree, and music probably reaches the most diverse audience of all.

Going into the music section in the Spring Garden Library's YA section, it was a relief to see that I wouldn't have to listen to a Hillary Duff record as a part of the assignment requirements. Instead, most of the albums that I came across were the type of thing I would listen to normally. So, here are two recent albums that I love, and teens will (at least some of them) love too.

Adele - 19 (2008)
The winner of this year's Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Adele is astoundingly talented. She's a part of the recent wave of contemporary UK singers who have been very obviously influenced by old soul and jazz recordings (along with Amy Winehouse and Duffy). This record is a great rainy Sunday album. I would probably be drinking tea, but hot chocolate would make a nice accompaniment as well. She has a gorgeous voice, dusky and textured. Here's a sample:

All ages.

Across the Universe Soundtrack (2007)

The Beatles have somehow crossed all kinds of generational boundaries. They have been my all-time favourite band since I was about four (I remember singing "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah" over and over again). I was born more than a decade after the band broke up. I currently live and work surrounded by 18 year old girls - towards the beginning of our year together, I found a group of them splayed out across the hallway, listening to the Beatles and eating apples. I sat down with them and we sat there for over an hour singing along.

In 2007 Julie Taymor directed the visually stunning Across the Universe, a musical made up entirely of Beatles songs, sung by the cast. The soundtrack is super fantastic. Here is a song that makes me cry:

All ages.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A poem

A poem from Laurie Halse Anderson, author of speak, made out of pieces of the letters she gets.

Friday, March 27, 2009


By Nick Hornby.

Published by in 2007 by Puffin, London.

Nick Hornby does an amazing job of creating likable characters that resonate with readers. He is especially adept at presenting the heart and soul of the modern man. His novel High Fidelity is a comedic masterpiece of heartbreak and rock music, one that I loved as a teenager and still love now. I found Slam slightly more difficult to get into. High Fidelity is about a man in his 30s (and I read it when I was probably about 18), Slam is about a young boy-man who is 15 (and I am now 27)- so it's not the fact that my age is different from the protagonist that is keeping me away from the story. Instead I think that Slam is more about the story than it is about the character, and character is the thing that really pulls me in and makes me love a novel. In this case I just, sort of, read it. It was fine, parts of it were interesting, parts of it were funny - but I didn't love it.

Slam is about 15 year old Sam. Sam's mum had him when she was 16, and will soon become a 33 year old Grandmother (although no one is pregnant at the start of the novel, but this development is far from surprising when it unfolds). Sam's father is on the scene, but at a distance, and Sam's true male role model is Tony Hawk (pro skateboarder - sorry, skater). Sam has read Tony Hawk's autobiography multiple times, and when Sam talks to his poster of Hawk he hears passages from the book that fit (or sometimes don't) his situation. The novel is a fairly straightforward account of how Sam goes from a 15 year old kid to a dad, although there is a strange phenomenon occurring wherein Sam is rushed forward in time for a few days, and then wakes up to find himself back in the present. This happens twice, and while it is odd, these passages make for the most compelling sections of the story, with Sam puzzling out how to fit into his new reality.

Overall the book makes for an interesting portrait of teen dads, and explores a side of an issue that is usually only seen from the perspective of the mother (there are lots of tales of young mothers and teenage pregnancy, but I have come across very few - if any - about young fathers).

Ages 12-16.